Light-Matter Interactions for Quantum Technologies Unit (Síle Nic Chormaic)

Síle Nic Chormaic

Light-Matter Interactions for Quantum Technologies Unit

Professor Síle Nic Chormaic FInstP

sile.nicchormaic at

Welcome to the website of the Light-Matter Interactions for Quantum Technologies (LMI-QT) Unit here at OIST, led by Prof. Síle Nic Chormaic.   We work in atomic and optical physics and consist of three sub-groups: Neutral Atoms for Quantum Technologies, NanoBioOptics and  Optical Cavities & Sensing.  For more information about our research topics please look at our research page or our publications page.   If you are fascinated by the beauty of light and the enormous role it plays in the world around us then this is the place for you!

We explore light as a tool in classical physics, such as when it can be used to push or pull individual particles (think of where a comet's tail comes from!), or for exploring the dynamics of colloidal particles (such as cells, bacteria, or test spheres), or even light's ability to be used in sensing of very small numbers of particles. 

Of course, there's a world beyond the classical and we also consider light's role in quantum physics, where photons can be used to slow down neutral atoms, in a process known as laser-cooling, or combined with magnetic fields to spatially trap and cool atoms in a magneto-optical trap, where temperatures of about 100 microKelvin are routinely obtained in the lab.  All of these techniques are crucial in the development of future quantum-based technologies relying on neutral ground state or Rydberg atoms.    

In general, we study the interaction between light and matter in a number of regimes, including cold atomic systems, whispering gallery mode microresonators and biologically-relevant samples, to gain a better understanding of the processes involved and to manipulate or trap micron and nanoscaled particles using light fields.  A common technique across our work is the use of optical nanofibres as the interface tool between the light source and the sample under investigation.   Researchers in our unit need/acquire a huge range of skills from optics, atomic physics, simulations, photonics, electronics, vacuum, cryogenics, nanotechnology, interfacing, programming, and so on, and there are some opportunities to gain skills in biophysics and other interdisciplinary topics such as sensing and imaging.   While much of our research focus is fundamental in nature, we use skills that are highly relevant to industry with a focus on nanofabrication, optics, automation, system modelling and control.  

Some of the facilities we have include 2 magneto-optical traps for Rb (one for Rydberg atom generation), 3 optical nanofibre pulling rigs, several microscopes, numerous tunable lasers from visible to near IR, optical spectrum analysers, vector network analyser, high speed oscilloscopes, wavemeters,  optical tweezers, Ti:Saph laser, fs laser, cryostat, clean room with open access, SEM, FIB (dual beam), spatial light modulators, single photon detectors, etc.   

Students interested in studying for a PhD with us should apply through the OIST Graduate University PhD Programme at or contact us for informal discussions about the entry requirements.    We are seeking students with a strong combination of experimental and analytical skills, with emphasis in classical and quantum optics.    We can only accept students who officially apply through the Graduate School programme, which provides a full scholarship for 5 years and conference travel costs. Previous students are employed in large-scale research facilities, optics-related industries, at universities, in airlines, or are involved in scientific publishing. 

If you are a student elsewhere and wish to spend a research period of up to 6 months with our group, we'd be happy to consider your application.  OIST also offers a dedicated research intern programme for BSc or MSc students from Japan or Overseas -  details are available at   Please email Prof. Nic Chormaic to discuss opportunities.

Details of our earlier work can be found at here 



The LMI Unit acknowledges funding from OIST, JSPS and JASSO. 

Latest Posts

  • 18 May: Latest publication - Phys. Rev. A

    Spontaneous emission and energy shifts of a Rydberg rubidium atom close to an optical nanofiber. E Stourm, M Lepers, J Robert, S Nic Chormaic, K Mølmer and E Brion, Phys. Rev. A 101, 052508 (2020)

  • 01 May: New rotation student - Alexey Vylegzhanin

    We've another rotation student joining the unit today. Alexey Vylegzhanin will work on optomechanics of small particles near optical nanofibers. He completed his MSc in Physics in 2018 from Moscow State University (Russia) before moving to Asia first as a teacher and now as a PhD student at OIST.


  • 01 May: New rotation student - Irina Korshok

    We welcome Irina Korshok as a rotation project student to the unit. Irina has just started the OIST PhD programme, having completed an MSc in Physics in Saint Petersburg State University (Russia) in 2019. She'll work in our neutral atom group during the next few months.